Market research often results in massive datasets and volumes of the content generated through consumer feedback. It consists of surveys, which collect information from thousands of respondents and feature lengthy answers to open-ended questions. Meanwhile, focus groups facilitate discussion and unstructured feedback to evaluate consumer sentiments guiding product releases, marketing, and other strategic decision-making. However, when conducting this research in a foreign market, researchers must decide how to translate feedback into their native language. Although human and machine translation are both used in various market research scenarios, many businesses prefer the convenience and cost-effectiveness of machine translation to translate this feedback.

If you’re trying to decide how to approach translation for your corporate market research, below is an overview of the benefits of machine translation—as well as examples where more intensive human translation services may be advisable.

Machine translation quickly processes massive amounts of content

One key benefit of machine translation is speed. Human translations are time-intensive, and project completion timelines are subject to translator availability. Machine translation is an automated process scaled to handle massive projects involving feedback from tens of thousands of respondents.

The larger your market research project is, the longer a human translation of that content will take. But machine translation can handle a project of any size with minimal processing time, allowing you to quickly access and apply data toward guiding strategic decisions. As a result, machine translation is an attractive option when you intend to capture the general sentiment of long answers to open-ended questions.

Reducing costs

Translation costs always factor into any decision between machine and human translation. The very elements of machine translation that make it fast and efficient for businesses—automation and scalability, for example—also make it much more cost-effective. Paying for a software-driven service saves you the labor costs of hiring qualified translation experts to manage precise, high-quality translations.

The downside to machine translation is that it loses quality, nuance, and context. Some may be fine with this tradeoff, preferring a cheap, “quick and dirty” translation instead of a polished, professional translation.

Having literal, accurate translations in machine-translated materials is only sometimes necessary. For example, market research is used for internal research, analysis, and decision-making—the importance of literal, accurate translations isn’t always as high. Consequently, businesses typically want to keep their investment in translation low, affording a finished product that may not be professional-grade but is serviceable enough to help researchers and marketers do their jobs.

Preserving the sentiment

Surveys and focus groups often seek broad feedback and sentiments that machine translation can capture effectively. 

Suppose you’re a movie production company trying to gather research on how your feature film will be received in foreign markets, for example. In that case, machine translation can help gauge the general sentiments of your local audience. It includes whether they enjoyed the movie and whether it might appeal to a broader base. Sentiment analysis of translated market research can also help you guide your marketing for that movie, such as emphasizing a particular character or storyline that proves most engaging to a specific foreign market.

The value of these machine-driven insights often provides a better ROI than what you would get from human translation. When analyzing hundreds or thousands of feedback, it’s even easier to analyze overall sentiments and trends through machine translations. The volume of data analyzed expands your sample size and gives you more reliable data to inform strategic decision-making.

Limitations of machine translation

Most businesses will find that machine translation of open-ended responses perfectly suits their market research needs. However, there are instances where machine translation may not offer the precision required by a business.

Medical market research is a perfect example. Given the high stakes of ensuring medical data is appropriately translated and understood, especially when it comes to physician responses and other consumer feedback, human translation is sometimes necessary to provide healthcare companies have the most accurate information possible. However, in other cases, such as market research involving a limited number of participants, a business may deem the total cost of human translation worth the added precision and accuracy.

While machine translation is excellent for providing a quick translation of many Western languages, automated translation tools aren’t as reliable with specific languages, including many Asian languages. As a result, this can make machine translations impractical for some foreign markets.

Remember that machine translation also has limitations when translating subtleties in communication, such as humor or sarcasm. As a result, human translators must either handle translations entirely or proofread machine translations and manage costs and quality through a hybrid approach.

How BIG Language Can Help You

Whether you need machine translation services or the precision of human translation, you should search for a language service provider (LSP) with extensive experience providing these services across hundreds of different language pairings to help guide you through this process. 

BIG Language Solutions has maintained a vast network for over 160 years, offering professional language services to business clients worldwide. Contact us today to learn how e can help serve your needs and exceed expectations.

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